The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


April 30, 2014

ELCA publications win awards

Publications of the ELCA took home 12 awards from the Associated Church Press annual convention held April 23-26 in Chicago. The ACP “Best of the Christian Press” awards were presented for work produced in 2013.

The Lutheran magazine won seven awards:

•           Award of merit, theological: biblical interpretation for “Even prophets get the blues,” Frank Honeycutt, author; Daniel J. Lehmann, editor.

•           Honorable mention, devotional/inspirational for “Love letter,” Honeycutt, author; Lehmann editor.

•           Honorable mention, single photo with article for “A joyful beginning,” (November cover photo of Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton) by Michael J. Watson, photographer.

•           Honorable mention for illustration accompanying “Keeping it legal,” Watson, artist; Julie B. Sevig, editor.

•           Honorable mention for feature article (short format) for “Lutheran trump cards,” Dave Daubert, author; Elizabeth Hunter editor.

•           Honorable mention, in depth coverage for “The shrinking church” (January cover story), Nicole Radziszewski, author, Sevig, editor.

•           Honorable mention, interview for “Friday night lights,” Shawn Windsor, author, Sevig, editor.

Gather magazine and Bold Café, both from the Women of the ELCA, won five awards:

•           Award of excellence, devotional/inspirational (long format) for “Wilderness Journey,” Julie Kanarr, author, Kate Sprutta Elliott and Terri Lackey, editors.

•           Award of merit, biblical interpretation for “A wild and crazy guy,” Kanarr, author, Elliott and Lackey, editors.

•           Award of excellence, personal experience (long format) for “Please God,” S.K.O. writer, Elliott and Lackey, editors. 

•           Honorable mention, department for “Playing for Keeps,” Elyse Nelson, author; Elliott and Lackey, editors.

•           Honorable mention, online, independent website to Boldcafe.org, Elizabeth McBride editor and graphic designer.

Metro Lutheran newspaper of Minneapolis-St. Paul, which recently ceased publication, won two awards:

•           Honorable mention in best in class, regional newspaper to Bob Hulteen, editor, and staff of the Metro Lutheran.

•           Award of excellence, newspaper column, for “Grace notes,” Jean Johansson, author.

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January 10, 2012

Park ranger memorial service streaming live

The memorial service for Margaret Kritsch Anderson, the first female National Park Service ranger killed in the line of duty, is being live-streamed from Pacific Lutheran University by Seattle television station KOMO. Watch live beginning at 1 p.m. PDT.

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January 6, 2012

Ranger’s memorial service announced

A public memorial service will be held Jan. 10, at Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Wash., for Margaret Kritsch Anderson, 34, the first female park ranger killed in the line of duty. Anderson and her husband, Eric Anderson, who is also a park ranger, and their daughters, Anna and Katie, are members of Bethany Lutheran Church, Spanaway, Wash.

The ranger was killed Jan. 1 when trying to keep a speeding car from entering Mount Rainer National Park. The gunman was later found dead.

Kritsch Anderson's father, Paul Kritsch, is pastor of Redeemer, a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod congregation in Westfield, N.J.

Jayne M. Thompson, an ELCA campus pastor, filed a blog for The Lutheran ("Margaret") on Jan. 2 about Kritsch Anderson's involvement in Lutheran Campus Ministry at Kansas State University in Manhattan. 

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November 4, 2010

Stan Olson named Wartburg Seminary president

Stanley N. Olson has been elected president of Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, according to a Nov. 4 press release from the seminary.
Since 2005, Olson has served as executive director of the Vocation and Education unit of the churchwide office, which was disbanded in the churchwide office's October reorganization. Olson will begin his new job Jan. 1, succeeding Interim President David Tiede.

In his Vocation and Education role, and as executive director of the ELCA’s Division for Ministry from 2002 to 2005, Olson led the church’s partnerships with its seminaries, colleges and universities, lifelong learning programs, outdoor ministries and campus ministries, as well as supporting young adult and youth ministries and guiding the ELCA candidacy program.

“The Wartburg community gives thanks to God for the appointment of Dr. Olson as our president. His grace, strength, and integrity are gifts among many that will lead us in mission and inspire us to love and serve in Jesus’ name,” said James Justman, chair of the Presidential Search Committee and the Board of Directors.

Olson also served as bishop of the Southwestern Minnesota Synod, and pastor of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minn., and First Lutheran Church in Duluth, Minn. In the years between those parish calls, he served as a professor of New Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.

Olson was raised on a farm near Eagle Grove, Iowa. He is a graduate of two ELCA colleges (Waldorf and St. Olaf) and of Luther Seminary. He holds a doctorate from Yale University where he wrote a dissertation on the New Testament. His wife Nancy is an Associate in Ministry and is Member Care Coordinator for St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Park Ridge, Ill.

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August 18, 2010

'Fast Eddie' Soistman dies in car accident

Edward C. “Fast Eddie” Soistman, 91, lay minister of St. John Lutheran Church, Winter Park, Fla., was killed in an early-morning automobile collision Monday after leaving his home to make a hospital visit.

Soistman was featured in the February issue of “The Lutheran” magazine: “Meet ‘Fast Eddie’: He’ll give you cookies, communion and a $2 bill.” Until last year, when Soistman’s official status became “retired,” he was the oldest active associate in ministry on ELCA records.
At age 55 Soistman retired from a 36-year career at Martin Marietta Corp. (now Lockheed Martin) to work at his church for no pay. Within 15 minutes of his Martin Marietta retirement lunch he was making the first of some 1,600 hospital calls he logged that first year of ministry.
Soistman left his home at 5:30 Monday morning for yet another hospital call to pray with a member awaiting surgery. After pulling out of his driveway and onto a nearby street, his car was struck by a sheriff’s deputy car.
In 2009 the Florida-Bahamas Synod and the community designated Feb. 22 “Eddie Soistman Day.” Walt Disney World presented him with the Lifetime Achievement Award, calling him “a spiritual beacon to generations of Walt Disney World cast members and guests.” In more than 28 years, Soistman conducted 220 worship services at Disney.

Soistman was known for the $2 bills he gave away with John 3:16 written on them (in memory of his wife Dorothy “Dot”). Sometimes the bills were taped to a copy of Luther’s Small Catechism. He said his secret for a long, active life was massage, pedicure and an occasional beer: “It’s OK to have a good time... in moderation.”

In an envelope Soistman had left to be opened after his death were the instructions: "Celebrate and have a great time."

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June 9, 2010

Pamela Jolicoeur, president of Concordia College, dies

Pamela M. Jolicoeur, president of Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn., died today (June 9) after suffering a stroke at her home early this morning, said Ron Offutt, chair of the college’s board of regents in an e-mail message.
Jolicoeur, 65, became president of the college in 2004. Jolicoeur took over for Paul Dovre, who was acting as interim president at the time.
Offutt, Fargo, N.D., shared this message today with the Concordia community: “It is with deep regret and profound sadness that I share the news that President Jolicoeur passed away this afternoon after suffering a stroke in her home early this morning. This is a devastating day for all of us in the Concordia community. Please keep Mike, Jessica and all of Pam’s family in your prayers during this difficult time.”

Jolicoeur’s tenure at Concordia has had a tremendous impact on the school and the larger Fargo-Moorhead community, Roger Gilbertson, a former member of the Concordia College Board of Regents who headed the search committee that helped bring Jolicoeur to Moorhead, told the Fargo Forum.

Jolicoeur joined California Lutheran University in 1972 as a sociology professor and worked her way up the academic ladder. She served as chair of CLU’s sociology department from 1979 to 1983, assistant dean from 1981 to 1983 and associate dean from 1984 to 1992. She spent three years as vice president for academic affairs before being named CLU provost in 1996, the school’s No. 2 post.

In 2008, Jolicoeur was named chairwoman of the Minnesota Private College Council, Fund and Research Foundation, which represents 17 liberal arts colleges and universities in the state. It raises funds to support operating costs and need-based scholarships.

During her tenure at Concordia, the college began construction and completed the $32 million Knutson Campus Center, the most expansive and priciest construction project in the school’s history.

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June 2, 2010

Summer is here!

Summer may officially arrive June 21. But for many of us, summer is that span of time between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Here’s a good reminder to care for ourselves and the planet during these months. The wisdom below comes from Josh Judd-Herzfeldt, administrator at my congregation, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Chicago, in our weekly e-newsletter:
“As we become fully embraced by the warmth of summer, be sure to take time (whether you’re busy or not) to fully enjoy the beauty around you. Slow down, take a breath, pause, and enjoy all that creation has to offer. Sit in a park, do some gardening, climb a tree, stop and ‘smell the roses’ (or any other flower!), take off your shoes and feel the grass, sand or dirt — the earth — between your toes.

We take for granted all that this planet has to offer. There’s no better example of this than daily updates on how much oil is pumping into the Gulf of Mexico — threatening our planet, our wildlife and even our livelihood. And this is on top of concern over the effects of global climate change and other issues facing our planet. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by it all. It seems like nothing I can do will change anything. This is not true.

This summer, make an effort to do something, anything, no matter how small. Every little bit helps, and the more we, as a healthy, vibrant, thriving community of faith can model positive and life-sustaining behavior, the more these actions will catch on. Develop some simple habits:

• turn lights off after you leave the room;
• unplug appliances like toasters, microwaves, mixers, etc;
• plug TV’s, VCR’s, DVD players, video game consoles, computers, sound systems into surge protectors with a switch and turn it off when not in use;
• buy produce at local farmer’s markets;
• walk or bike instead of drive whenever possible;
• set the heat 2 degrees cooler and the AC 2 degrees warmer;
• hang clothes to dry instead of running the dryer.

Doing even one of these things will have an impact if we all start to do them. And once these habits are in place, they’ll be passed down and expanded upon by future generations. Take the time to see what you can do to help, and enjoy the summer!”

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April 14, 2010

Good health means less screen time

©istockphoto.com/nodmitry In our effort to lead a healthier life at home, our family is trying to be less attached to electronics. This is mostly directed at our kids, and specifically 7-year-old Peder, who is just too attached to his Nintendo DS.

We've banned weeknight TV, taken the DS away and for now Wii can only be used as a family activity. All three kids can earn TV and electronic game privileges back in moderation (weekends) by doing household chores and reading more. We're still fine-tuning this "points" system.

As an alternative, we brainstormed things to do sans electronics. Peder wrote them all down on pieces of paper and put them in an empty Diet Coke fridge pack box: "play at the park," "game night," "puzzle night," "neighborhood walk," "invite someone to dinner," "go out to dinner," "have dessert." A few things are reserved for weekends nights and may involve a screen: "camp out in the living room" and "family movie night."

Tuesday was our first night with the activity box: outdoor treasure hunt. We made a list of 10 things to find or do in the neighborhood, including "picking up litter" (we filled a bag) and "make a new friend." It was a success. The kids were so excited when they returned with their crossed off list, they wanted Oliver, 4, to draw an activity for tonight. So if you need me after supper, I'll be playing in the park.

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March 31, 2010

A no-brainer: use the lunch hour

©istockphoto.com/nodmitryFor the better part of the winter, I was in the habit of doing (at least) two things that aren't healthy: I was eating at my desk, and I wasn't exercising. At all.

With three kids at home and winter darkness, it was nearly impossible to exercise in the morning and evening. And to make up for lost morning time (again, related to carting kids around), I'd often work through the noon hour while munching on something at my desk. One of the downfalls of this, of course, is that I could literally spend my workday without social contact. I'm an introvert, but this was ridiculous.

And my health suffered — both physically and emotionally.

So my Spring resolve is to use the lunch hour for exercise. It's the most obvious, yet creative, use of time I can think of. Because a colleague at the Lutheran Center is offering Lunchtime Yoga two days a week, that's what I do two days a week. The other two (weather permitting), I take a brisk walk at the forest preserve just across the street from the Lutheran Center. Unless it's really warm (as it is today), there's almost always a chance of seeing deer-always a bonus.

Of course doing these two things over the noon hour doesn't leave much time for eating, but I think that makes it OK (and necessary, I'm afraid) to eat at my desk. And, on the fifth day of the work week, I try to line up a lunch date out of the building. Fridays are particularly good for this! Any takers?

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January 29, 2010

A 'dignified and respectful' recovery

On Thursday evening, Rafael Malpica-Padilla, exectuve director of Global Mission, informed Benjamin Larson’s family that Ben’s remains had been removed from St. Joseph’s Home for Boys near Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

A statement from the family appears on the Web site of First Lutheran Church , Duluth, Minn., where Ben’s mother, April Ulring Larson serves as pastor.

The response of Ben’s wife, Renee Splichal Larson was, “What would we do without the church! What would we do without the church!”

Renee, Ben and Ben’s cousin, Jonathan Larson, were in Haiti at the time of the earthquake. Renee and Jonathan escaped after seeing the top two floors of the six floor building collapse on Ben. All three were in Haiti for J-term as seniors at Wartburg Seminmary, Dubuque, Iowa.

Since government efforts to remove Ben’s body would take at least a month, the ELCA’s International Development and Disaster Response Director, Louis Dorvilier, hired people of Haiti to remove rubble and the concrete beam which had fallen on Ben, in order to return his remains home. 

The recovery effort began on Tuesday and was completed Thursday evening. Ben’s body will be flown on a military plane to a city where he will be officially identified and returned to the Midwest for burial.

Said his family in the statement, “Ben so dearly loved the people of Haiti, and it was these loving resourceful people, together with his beloved church, the ELCA, who joined hands to bring Ben home. His family is deeply grateful.”

The statement ends with a postscript dated this morning (Friday) from Renee Dietrich, St. Joseph’s home, to Ben’s widow, Renee: “I know you know this already, but they removed Ben's body from St. Joseph's last evening. Michael said it was very dignified and respectful. The person leading them down was holding candles. Know you are loved and supported and constantly in our thoughts and prayers.”

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January 27, 2010

Larson body located

 Renee Splichal Larson awaited official word Wednesday afternoon that her husband’s body had been recovered from the rubble of the St. Joseph Home for Boys in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Benjamin  Larson, 25, was in the building with Renee and his cousin Jonathan Larson at the time of the Jan. 12 earthquake. Renee and Jonathan escaped and eventually returned to the U.S. All three, seniors at Wartburg Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, were in Haiti for J-term. Ben is the son of April Ulring Larson and Judd Larson, Duluth, Minn., both ELCA pastors.  

Renee told The Lutheran today (Wednesday, Jan. 27) that she had received a call from Rafael Malpica Padilla, executive director of ELCA Global Mission, Wednesday morning saying that “they have located Ben and hope to have his body out this afternoon.”

She said Malpica’s text message sent to her after the earthquake assuring her that the Lutheran World Federation staff would “care for Ben and work to get [his body] out” was the only reson she was able to leave Haiti.

“I also knew that the people of St. Joseph’s would watch over his body and protect the building so that Ben would not be lost. Ever since the earthquake I have entrusted Ben to the Haitian people and the Church, and they are the ones who have prayed and worked so hard to get Ben out.”

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November 5, 2009

A Reformation gift

Maybe it’s the vote in Maine or those #@*& Yankees winning AGAIN. But even more likely, it’s from the anxiety and sadness in this place where I spend my days, and from reading blogs, blog comments and too many stories about congregations — members and pastoral leaders — fighting about what to do with their money and their membership...

But when I came across David R. Weiss’s essay in yesterday’s Star Tribune, I felt as though someone had given me an early Christmas present. But it's really a Reformation gift. As a fellow journalist and friend pointed out, since the August Churchwide Assembly, the dissenters have been allowed to control the public discussions.

Weiss writes, “very few official Lutheran voices have dared to publicly celebrate the good news [CWA decisions] offer our gay and lesbian members.” It started when those gathered in a hushed room in the Minneapolis Convention Center weren’t allowed to celebrate, but the gag order seems to continue. “The most vocal Lutherans these days are threatening to take their wallets, their memberships and occasionally their entire congregations elsewhere,” Weiss observes.

Since he can’t post his theses to every Lutheran church door, Weiss, author of "To the Tune of a Welcoming God," finds his modern Castle Church door on the pages of the Star Tribune: 1. “We have not chosen to ignore sin.... In good Lutheran fashion we see sin as broken relationship, whether with God, our fellow humans or the world.” 2. “We have not rejected the Bible... In a very Lutheran way, we respect the Bible too much to think that it’s best understood by just reading the words off the page.” 3. “We have not forsaken the Lutheran confessions... To people dreadfully anxious about their salvation, Lutheran declared that our behavior–whether good or bad—had nothing to do with fixing our relationship with God. God fixes the relationship as gift.”

This has been my helping of hope for today. This, and of course, Bishop John Shelby Spong’s “Manifesto.”

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October 15, 2009

Fighting hunger with words & wallets

One of the joys of this job is forming relationships with good writers and editing their work. If it’s an “easy edit” it’s a good day in the editor’s salt mine (a.k.a. cube).

This week’s editing theme appears to be hunger. Terri Mork Speirs wrote about the ministry of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls, S.D., where a team of women routinely gathers to make 60 meals for the church deep freeze. The meals are available for those who need them. Watch for “Meet me at the freezer” in December.

The second story is by one of our regular and best freelancers, Cindy Novak. Cindy tackled the topic of global hunger for our January 2010 cover story. Talk about an unwieldy, critical topic! But Cindy leaves no stone unturned. When this story arrives in your mailbox or inbox, take time to read it.

You’ll be reminded, of course, of the sobering fact that more than 1 billion people went hungry everyday this year—100 million more than last year. The worldwide recession that started last year “pushed aside” the global food crisis, according to this week’s report, “Who Controls the Governance of the World Food System .”

But Cindy’s story will leave you with resounding hope, and pride in what the ELCA and all its partners do to help alleviate hunger and poverty in the world. You may even enter the new year resolved to do something new to help.

In the meantime, there are all sorts of ways to get involved. The ELCA Good Gifts catalog mailed with our October issue is bursting with ideas for this time of year. And if there hasn’t been a Crop Walk in your area yet, there just might be one this Sunday. Walk. Sponsor a walker. Or do both.

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October 8, 2009

As for me and my church, we'll stay AND give!

There’s plenty of talk in the ELCA these days about money. Oh yes, and church decisions regarding sexuality. The two seem tightly knit. Congregations and members dissatisfied with decisions made by the 2009 Churchwide Assembly talk of leaving—or at the very least withholding funds normally sent beyond their church walls.

Thoughtful essays making the rounds on Facebook and e-mail urge people to continue giving, and offer helpful reflection on the value of giving to the church—not based on what we agree or disagree about, but because it’s Christ’s church and there’s work to be done.

Yes, the numbers that continue to be crunched at churchwide, in synod offices and in congregations of all sizes are partly the result of CWA decisions. But let’s not forget, they are also the result of a troubled economy.

I don’t know that the CWA actions are going to affect the weekly giving/pledge of most ELCA members. In fact, in my little urban congregation that feels great joy about the changes being made, it may even increase. Chicago Area Synod mission support gifts for September exceeded the gifts of last September by $33,889, and our year-to-date mission support has exceeded last year’s by $38,341.

But the speculation and fear of the loss of mission support is looming and there’s already evidence that it’s very real. Colleagues at Higgins Road, and beyond, will surely feel the effects of decreased giving. Many will lose jobs, and those left behind will have depleted budgets with which to work. And surely the ripple effect could be catastrophic: a lack of people and funds to do the work so desperately needed in our hurting, hungry world.

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October 1, 2009

Menopause Ministry

If you’re up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, you are not alone. Experts suspect that as many as 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia . Chances are, you might know (or be) one of them.

At about 3 this morning, I did what I really try not to do in the middle of the night (but I had to do something while my milk was warming in the microwave)—I went to the computer and to my Facebook page. My post? “Again, sleepless in Chicago. What is with this?” By now, my Facebook friends know that insomnia has been plaguing me about every other night. And some of them, too. Throughout the night, and morning, I've received a dozen FB notes of sympathy and solutions, not unlike those I received just a few weeks back: Tylenol or Advil PM, Ambien, Benedryl, 5HTP, exercise (but not before bed), hot milk, a “Night Nurse Cocktail,” no liquor before bed, a glass of red wine before bed, reading but no TV, etc.

In the meantime, I’ve simply dubbed this my “Menopause Ministry.” If you have something you need me to pray about in the middle of the night, I’ll gladly add it to my prayer list. Like I said, in the middle of the night, I'm not the only one not sleeping.

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August 6, 2009

Please, give me some good news!

Do you get bogged down by tragedy? I really do. In fact, I rarely watch the evening news because if I do I have trouble sleeping.

I also prefer to get my news from the newspaper (and NPR). But those, too, can sometimes be too much. A page of Chicagoland news in yesterday’s Tribune made me shudder. Seven stories of tragedy, three toward children—an infant who had been abandoned, a 22-month-old who drowned after being left unattended in the bathtub, and a 2-year-old boy treated for a broken leg after a man living in the home had hit him in the face three times, and then threw him across the living room because he wouldn’t stop crying.

The horrors of what happens to the most vulnerable break my heart. And they must surely break God’s heart.

But today as I face this computer screen to write and edit, my heart also soars. In Waukesha, Wis., St. Luke Lutheran Church has adopted an elementary school less than a mile away. Members host a Homework Club and send Snack Packs home each weekend so those kids and their families have enough to eat on the weekends. In Columbus, Neb., Hope Lutheran Church hosts a “Store of Hope” where children and their families pay what they can afford for school supplies and clothes. In San Antonio, a shelter sponsored by Lutheran Social Services of the South received a grant to do their ministry—protect young girls. And in Appalachia, 1,100 Lutheran congregations are helping families and children, where the threat of mining polutants is making the cancer numbers skyrocket.

Read about all these ministries in the September issue of The Lutheran when it reaches you. Sure, it will be filled with Churchwide Assembly news and photos that will pull your attention. But read and rejoice in all of it. Surely, there will be stories that make your heart soar, and make you proud to be part of this church.

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July 31, 2009

How will you change the world?

I often say the last 10 minutes of worship is my toughest 10 minutes of the week. That’s when my two youngest, Oliver and Annika, come from the nursery to the community for communion and the final hymn. And juggling three kids (often in the front row and often by myself) is a challenge.

But lately that time has been tempered by the other 50 minutes with Peder, age 6. Last Sunday was particularly wonderful. He’s starting to read fairly well, so he follows the hymn lyrics and picks up the tune quite easily. He looks intently at his parents’ lips for help in singing along.

And this past Sunday he was writing intently on a sheet in the bulletin, asking in a whisper how to spell a few words. I glanced down and he had written: “We will change the world.”

I wondered what had prompted that, and tried to rethink what I’d heard in the sermon or hymns. Then he handed me the pew pencil and whispered, “Write how you are going to change the world.”

So although I heard a very good sermon last Sunday, my biggest faith challenge came from a 6-year-old. In case you’re wondering, I sort of passed the buck. I wrote, “Raise three children who will work for peace and justice in this world.”

Can’t wait to find out what he hears, and asks, this Sunday. But mostly, I can't wait to sing with him.

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July 24, 2009

Wedding procession at ELCA church a YouTube sensation

A couple married at Christ Lutheran Church, St. Paul, Minn., has turned into instant wedding celebrities thanks to their unconventional waltz down the aisle they posted on YouTube .

By Friday afternoon there were more than 1.5 million views of the five minute aisle dance, and nearly 10,000 comments. The video was posted earlier in the week, Margery Peterson, mother of the bride, told The Lutheran on Friday.

Jill Peterson and Kevin Heinz, both 28, wowed their wedding guests June 20 when they and their seven bridesmaids, five groomsmen and four ushers boogied down the aisle to Chris Brown’s “Forever.”

The couple never intended for their loosely-choreographed processional to be a YouTube sensation, but posted it for friends and family. Said Heinz on Friday’s Today Show, “I put it up because her dad had been really harassing me to get it out to some of  his other family members, and it exploded.”

Margery Peterson said she had lost track of how many media folks she’d talked to, but that many were in their 20s and said they’d gladly join a church where dancing down the aisle was affirmed. “I told my daughter it was just a nudge toward world peace,” she said, adding that she's watched it at least once a day since. “It just makes me happy."

Christ Lutheran's church office has also been swamped with phone calls and emails today, said Matthew Maas, pastoral intern.

“People are responding because the spiritual and physical are compatible. Watching the video pulls both of these together,” Maas said.

On Saturday, the wedding party will do an encore of the now-famous aisle dance on the Today Show.

Matt Lauer was clearly amused, “If you can have that much fun at the wedding, that much fun will carry over also into your marriage. What a great sign and what a great gift.”

It was Jill Peterson’s idea, and she swore both sets of parents to secrecy: “I danced growing up and as a dancer through college and loved dance as a way to express yourself and share joy. So it was something I always thought about doing.” Heinz agreed to Jill Peterson’s idea. It was “the first thing we really decided about the wedding that he wanted to do,” she told the Today Show.

Margery Peterson said she’d only let on that the wedding would be creative. “I trusted my daughter so I knew it would be OK.”

The mother of the bride said she walked, not danced, in, but that she and others — including Heinz’s 92-year-old grandmother who walks with a cane — danced out. As did Jeannine Leonard, a pastor in the Church of the Brethren, who officiated.

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July 23, 2009

Cronkite: from acolyte to anchor

Walter Cronkite’s death didn’t have the tragedy and drama that surrounded, say, Michael Jackson’s death. But even though Cronkite was 92, news of his death landed like a thump on the hearts of those of us who had major life events delivered to us via that voice.

The silencing of that voice—matched with his old-fashioned, hard-working journalism skill and sensibilities—is a huge loss.

A Religion News Service blog this week said the famous anchor was anchored by his faith: The man who pioneered broadcast news once pondered the Episcopal priesthood while working as a newspaper church editor, he said in an 1994 article in The Christian Century. “For a short while, I thought about entering the ministry,” said Cronkite. “But that was a short while. Journalism prevailed.”

Cronkite started out Lutheran (in Kansas City), until his family turned Presbyterian. Later, his father helped start a Unitarian Church in Houston. “I attended that for a couple years until I got into a Boy Scout troop that met in an Episcopal church,” he said. “The church had a wonderful minister who was also the scoutmaster. ... I was much involved with the church, and became an Episcopalian—and an acolyte.”

Of course there’s sadness in every death, even the famous who we really didn’t know. Of this recent parade of passings, I think I’ll miss Uncle Walter the most.

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July 16, 2009

A hootenanny is like church?

There are certain things we try to do each summer with the kids, especially when visiting our lake cabin in Minnesota. Last summer about this time I made a list of those rituals in this very blog space.

On July 4, we revived a lake ritual I grew up with but haven’t enjoyed in years. We had a good old-fashioned Sevig Hootenanny. Think: Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, old hymns. In decades past (60s, 70s) my brothers and I knew all the words to “Tom Dooley,” “M.T.A.” and “This Land is Your Land” without skipping a beat. But now we’re in our 50s and 60s. The guitarists scrambled for chords and the singers stumbled over the words—but occasionally we came on strong and sure. Many of the 60s folk songs are as deeply rooted as the trees that tower over our cabin.

And there was one that produced a sense of longing and sadness when my niece asked, “What’s the one Grandma always wanted to sing before we all went to bed?” Ah yes, “Don’t it Make You Want To Go Home?”

Don’t it make you wanna go home?
Don’t it make you wanna go home?
All God’s children get weary when they roam
Don’t it make you wanna go home?

The family has changed since we last had a hootenanny—my parents are both gone, there have been two divorces, more grandchildren and even a great grandchild added. And this was the first hootenanny for a spouse and boyfriend. If we were struggling, they really struggled while trying to catch on to these family favorites.

That’s when I saw the evening as a metaphor for church. People continually walk through our doors trying to get the hang of what we’ve been doing for years. They’re joining a family with a history and a song—sometimes watching and learning, sometimes joining in. And together, the newly made group both stumbles and comes on strong.

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March issue

MARCH issue:

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